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Read this text and the questions opposite. Then select the best answer to each question from the four choices below it. You cannot select more than one answer per question.

Rough Riders.

Answer Sheet

Today we are accustomed to seeing huge SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) crowding our urban streets. Many loathe these vehicles for the environmental damage and congestion which they cause. Yet there was a market for this type of vehicle long before they became a status symbol for the aspiring middle classes.

The original off-roader was a hugely over-powered motor car which was developed by the US army to do anything from pulling light artillery to taking troops across difficult terrain. Because they could do almost anything, these vehicles were called General Purpose Vehicles, which soon became shortened to G.P. and then to 'jeep'.

When the second world war ended in 1945, jeeps were sold off in huge numbers as war surplus material. Because they could drive off-road and carry all sorts of loads, they became a popular utility vehicle with farmers. But the powerful engines put a huge strain on other parts of the motor, such as the gearbox. By the end of the 1940s, the world's jeeps were starting to wear out.

Two British engineers saw this as an opportunity. In the post-war austerity, there was not much demand for motor cars, and workers at the Rover factory were underemployed. So in 1947 Maurice and Spencer Wilks designed the first Land Rover. This vehicle had the boxy shape which was to be associated with Landrovers for decades after, but it was built with aluminium because steel was in short supply. The steering wheel was in the centre of the vehicle to help the farmer line up his plough, since another function of the Landrover was to serve as a replacement plough-house.

Rover expected to produce about 50 vehicles a week for a few years, after which production would be abandoned. But the Landrover turned out to be a great success. Only 8,000 were produced in the first year, but in the second year demand had risen three-fold, and it kept on rising. Now, almost 50 years later, the Landrover is still in production and millions of them have been built and sold all around the world.

Another reason for the Landrover's success is that it replaced the jeep as a military general purpose vehicle. It was not long before armies and police forces all over the world adopted this rugged vehicle which could get them into places which other motorcars just could not reach. The Landrover was also used by explorers, emergency medical teams and peacekeepers of the United Nations, which gave it a kind of glamour which the sellers of today's SUVs still trade on.

Recently the market for off-road vehicles has exploded. Today almost every manufacturer of motor vehicles produces their own brand of off-roader. Most of these are not sold to farmers or explorers, but to the urban affluent. These new purchasers value the SUV for its image and because they believe that these large solid vehicles are safer - though statistics have shown that this is not the case. The higher wheelbase of an off road vehicle means that the car is more likely than a street car to roll when an inexperienced driver takes a tight corner too fast.

Nevertheless, unless there is a dramatic rise in the price of petrol (SUVs have a notoriously high fuel consumption), the fashion for commuter off-road vehicles seems set to remain. This has forced Landrovers to change to keep up with the trends. The Spartan vehicle of yesteryear has been replaced by a car with internal air-conditioning, smooth lines and built-in holders for coffee cups. Many of them use their powerful six-litre engines for little more than taking kids to school on a suburban road. But you can be sure that occasionally the mum behind the driving wheel fantasises about taking her car through the Amazonian jungle or the mountains of Tibet.

1. Which is not given as a fault of SUVs?
a They block up the roads.
b They use a lot of petrol.
c They can be unsafe.
d They are over-powered.

2. What was the main strength of the Jeep?
a It was versatile.
b It was very powerful
c It could drive off-road.
d It could pull light artillery.

3. Rover's plans for the Landrover were intially ...
a Pessimistic.
b Unrealistic.
c Long-term.
d Unambitious.

4. Advertisements for SUVs today will probably stress ...
a Their safety features.
b Their exotic image.
c Their off-road ability.
d Their wide range of uses.

5. How does the author feel about modern SUVs?
a He admires their ruggedness.
b He thinks they are too luxurious.
c He feels they are misused.
d He really dislikes them.


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